Despite efforts to keep the Mohawk Racetrack backstretch open, it will be closed on Dec. 15. Mohawk management advised the Central Ontario Standardbred Association (COSA) so it could advise horsemen and give them 90 days notice and then announced the news Wednesday morning.
"I don't really know if it was strictly a matter of making the backstretch pay for itself," said COSA president Bill O'Donnell. "I don't know if there was a fear of having to collect stall rent, or if it is because we don't know what the future will look like yet for the sport."
Woodbine Entertainment Group confirmed that uncertainty was a factor in a press release issued early Wednesday morning. "Given the high degree of uncertainty around WEG's 2013 racing schedule, we are taking all available steps to adjust budgetary and operational practices to be able to respond to the changes which the industry is facing,” said Jamie Martin, WEG's Executive Vice President of Racing. "We undertook efforts over the summer to determine whether we could fill enough stalls on a cost recovery basis, but there wasn't sufficient certainty with the stall applications to provide us with the comfort needed to continue.”
In early August it appeared that the operation of the backstretch would be able to pay for itself when a commitment of 400 stalls had been achieved. Stall rent was to be set at $250 per month from November 1 through April 30 and then $125 per month during the summer months. At present stall are virtually rent free with the exception of a $1 per day environmental fee.
In addition to the news of the closure of the Mohawk backstretch, rumors have also been flying that Woodbine will not have live harness racing in January and February. O'Donnell said to his knowledge, that has been a discussion point, but no decision has been reached about 2013 racing dates.
"We told them we would rather go three days a week throughout the year than shut down for two months," said O'Donnell.
"Tracks don't apply for dates anymore; the ORC (Ontario Racing Commission) has changed the procedure to where they normally decide dates in October," O'Donnell added. "But right now the (transition) panel is meeting with racetracks and asking them if they want to race, and what it would take to race those dates. There is some concern that this panel may mandate dates."--harnessracing.com